- Author: Nevermore
- Date: August 29, 2022
- Expansion: WotLK Classic
With the coming of the Wrath of the Lich King, Death Knights became available for every race without restrictions.
Race picks for Death Knights work just like with most of the classes, when it comes to performance: each faction comes with one or two races that are vastly superior to the others because of their racial effects. However, if you do not care about optimizing your build as much as possible, just choose the race which fits you the most!
Orc is the strongest race you can choose for Horde for playing an Unholy Death Knight. This is mainly due to two of their racial effects being extremely strong — Blood Fury, which can be used to severely enhance your burst, and Hardiness, which grants you increased resistance to crowd control.
Orcs are often considered the best race available for Unholy Death Knights, offering several strong effects to enhance their toolkit. Orcs are often seen in the first lines of any battlefield, viciously cutting down their enemies.
- Axe Specialization increases your expertise by 5 when using axes or fist weapons. There are a lot of very powerful axes out there, including Shadowmourne, the strongest two-handed weapon in the game. Thus, this racial is extremely powerful for both PvE and PvP.
- Blood Fury is an on-use spell that increases your Attack Power and scales with your level. At level 80 it will provide +322 attack power for 15 seconds on a 2-minute cooldown. The fact that this is an on-use ability has big implications for burst phases / stacking your cooldowns.
- Hardiness offers you resistance to crowd control effects, which is absolutely amazing in PvP. Reduced crowd control duration for PvP encounters means that your enemy has less time to counter you!
- Command is a very powerful racial that enhances your pet’s damage. Your ghoul will be pleased to serve an Orc master, considering how strong this racial is. However, your gargoyle seems to not be as thankful — it will not benefit from this racial ability.
There aren’t a lot of beings in Azeroth more gruesome than Undead Death Knights. They excel in PvP combat, with two very interesting racial effects.
- Will of the Forsaken removes charm, fear, and sleep effects. This will act as a secondary trinket. However, keep in mind that you can also consider it your second Lichborne, as it provides similar effects without granting you the “Undead” status.
- Cannibalize allows you to feast on the corpses of your slain enemies to restore your health. This can prove to be very useful in battlegrounds and the open world, acting as a makeshift healing effect.
- Shadow Resistance reduces the chance you will be hit by Shadow spells by 2%. While being a small bonus, it will still prove to be useful in PvP!
- Underwater Breathing helps you survive for a very long time underwater.
Blood Elves are a solid choice for playing an Unholy Death Knight in PvP content, coming with a strong silence, further dismissing any assault efforts attempted by any caster who dares cross your path.
- Arcane Torrent is a racial effect offering an instant AoE silence, while also providing you with 15 runic power. This racial effect can be combined with other interrupting and silencing effects to create a complete crowd control lockdown on a target, completely impairing any spellcaster.
- Magical Resistance reduces the chance to be hit by spells by 2%. This racial effect provides a fairly powerful advantage in PvP!
- Arcane Affinity increases your initial Enchanting skill by 10. This does not have significant gameplay implications, only providing an initial minor bonus.
Trolls have a plethora of racial effects to offer. However, only a couple of them have an actual gameplay impact. Trolls are an overall balanced choice for Unholy Death Knights in PvP, having both offensive and defensive cooldowns.
- Berserking is an on-use spell that offers +20% increased attack speed for 10 seconds on a 3-minute cooldown. The fact that this is an on-use ability has big implications for burst phases / stacking your cooldowns.
- Beast Slaying increases your damage dealt to Beast-type enemies by 5%, which is very powerful in theory. In practice, the only use for this ability is against a hunter’s pet.
- Da Voodoo Shuffle passively reduces the duration of movement-slowing & immobilizing effects on you by 15%. This racial effect will greatly improve your mobility, especially when taking into consideration the rest of the movement-speed-enhancing effects.
- Regeneration increases health regeneration by 10% and allows you to regenerate health during combat at 10% of your normal regeneration rate. While this racial is only really relevant while leveling or questing, it can have situational uses in end-game content as well when it comes to increasing your overall survivability.
- Bow Specialization and Throwing Specialization increase your critical strike chance with bows & throwing weapons by 1%. Sadly, Death Knight does not benefit from this racial effect.
Taurens are seen as a rather mediocre choice when it comes to playing an Unholy Death Knight, with racial effects oriented around crowd control and survivability. You might think that these could still be useful, but Unholy Death Knights are much more likely to reach their full potential when they are played offensively, not defensively.
- Endurance increases base health by 5% — that is, your natural health at level 80, without your extra health or stamina from equipment, buffs, etc. This can help you survive slightly better than other Death Knight races, but is generally weak since you will not be stacking stamina.
- War Stomp gives you an on-use AoE stun with a 2-minute cooldown. This racial effect can give you a powerful stun effect that you can use to create a crowd control lock on a target, or interrupt several targets at the same time.
- Nature Resistance reduces the chance you will be hit by Nature spells by 2%. This is mostly a negligible racial for PvP.
- Cultivation increases your initial Herbalism skill by 15. This doesn’t have a gameplay impact besides minor convenience.
Human is seen as the strongest option for Alliance Unholy Death Knights, mainly due to Every Man for Himself and Perception, which are extremely strong in PvP. The fact that humans possess Every Man for Himself allows them to be the single race in the entire game that can utilize two DPS trinkets instead of the standard PvP/DPS trinket combination.
Human is seen by far as the strongest choice when it comes to playing an Unholy Death Knight, having strong racial effects overall, which improve both quality-of-life and overall PvP performance.
- Sword Specialization & Mace Specialization increase your expertise by 3 when using swords or maces. This is lower than the 5 expertise that other races get with equivalent racials, but you will have more versatility in picking different weapon types, while other races are generally forced into one specific weapon type.
- Every Man for Himself is a crowd-control-removal ability, just like the one the Undead race has, but with universal applicability. In fact, it is the most powerful PvP racial in the entire game, as it allows you to equip 2 DPS trinkets instead of the standard PvP/DPS trinket combination.
- Perception passively increases your stealth detection level by a small amount. This racial will make a big difference when you are fighting Rogues or Druids.
- Diplomacy increases the rate at which you gain reputation by 10% — a major boost for your reputation grind. Though, while it is a beneficial quality-of-life racial, it doesn’t impact actual gameplay.
- The Human Spirit increases your spirit by 3%. This is, unfortunately, nearly useless for Death Knights.
- Night Elves are the second best choice for playing an Unholy Death Knight in PvP content! This is generally due to 3 strong racial effects which can grant you huge advantage in PvP.
- Quickness reduces the chance you’ll be hit by melee and ranged attacks by 2%. This racial effect can provide you with high survivability against physical damage-dealing classes as they will often find themselves missing with their attacks.
- Nature Resistance reduces the chance you will be hit by Nature spells by 2%. This racial effect further improves your survivability against other Death Knights, Druids, Shamans, and Hunters.
- Shadowmeld can be used to escape combat and become stealthed once every 2 minutes. It will also cause you to drop all threat on every target you’re currently engaged in combat with. However, all threat will be restored the moment you leave stealth, which will happen the moment you move or take any action.
- Simply put, this racial has high applicability in PvP, but it also has high applicability in the early stages of PvE, especially dungeons, in case you pull a group of mobs or steal aggro from a tank by mistake.
- Besides completely removing any threat that you have, Shadowmeld will also force any player currently targeting you to lose the target, effectively allowing you to cancel a spell cast, further impairing any caster that attempts to harm you.
- Elusiveness reduces the chance to be detected if you are stealthed. The only way to go stealth as a Death Knight is through Shadowmeld, however, this racial effect makes it harder for your enemies to spot you while using it!
- Wisp Spirit increases your movement speed by 75% while dead. You generally don’t want to be dead.
Draenei are considered to be a solid option for Unholy Death Knights, since they have strong racial effects that directly impact PvP performance, as well as some other decent bonuses that aid in their overall quality-of-life.
- Heroic Presence increases the chance to hit with spells and physical attacks by 1%, for you and all party members within 30 yards. This racial effect allows you to min-max your build as well as that of your allies, better than any other race.
- Gift of the Naaru places a heal-over-time effect on a single target that lasts 15 seconds, with a 3-minute cooldown. This racial effect can improve your overall survivability, granting you an additional self-sustain tool!
- Shadow Resistance reduces the chance you will be hit by Shadow spells by 2%. This racial will provide you with a strong survivability bonus in PvP content.
- Gemcutting increases your initial Jewelcrafting skill by 5. This doesn’t have a gameplay impact besides minor convenience.
Dwarves can be considered an average race choice, having two decent racial effects and a fun gimmick-type racial that allows them to have a unique kind of experience in the open world.
- Mace Specialization increases your expertise by 5 when using maces. Most of the strongest weapons you could use tend to be axes and swords, making this racial better on paper than in practice. Regardless, it is incredibly powerful if you’re using maces.
- Stoneform is an on-use spell that gives you a +10% increased armor for 8 seconds on a 2-minute cooldown. For most classes and specs, this would be a purely tanking-focused boost, but it can prove to be useful for survivability during tough encounters, even as a DPS.
- Gun Specialization increases your critical strike chance with guns by 1%. This racial effect is entirely useless for a Death Knight.
- Frost Resistance reduces the chance you will be hit by Frost spells by 2%. This is mostly useful against Mages and other Death Knights, as frost damage is quite rare in PvP.
- Find Treasure is a very cool racial from a roleplay point of view, allowing you to see treasure on the minimap. This is very fun to use while questing and leveling up, but it unfortunately has 0 relevance in raids.
Gnomes are much more of an aesthetic choice when it comes to playing an Unholy Death Knight, rather than a performance choice. They do have access to some beneficial racials, but they pale in comparison to the other available Alliance races.
- Escape Artist instantly removes all movement-slowing and immobilizing effects on a 1-minute cooldown. While this racial effect is strong in PvP, it’s the weaker version of the Human’s racial effect. Nonetheless, it can be powerful against classes that employ a lot of slowing effects.
- Engineering Specialization increases your initial Engineering skill by 15. This is slightly more useful than other profession-boosting racials, since Engineering has guardian-type summoned pets which scale with your Engineering skill. This racial makes your summoned pets level 83, which makes them a decent bit stronger but, as there aren’t many useful guardians, this racial isn’t really ground-breaking.
- Arcane Resistance reduces the chance you will be hit by Arcane spells by 2%. This is useful only against Mages, Druids, and Hunters.
- Expansive Mind increases your total Intellect by 5%. Death Knights do not benefit from intellect at all, rendering this racial effect entirely useless.